Sports Books Hold Their Own in Literature Stakes

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER SHARKEY

It will come as no surprise to learn that this week is the busiest of the year for sales of books. Of course, the biggest sellers are those ghosted on behalf of chefs, music and TV 'personalities' (or written by Stieg Larsson), but sales of sports-related books have enjoyed a welcome renaissance throughout 2010, a trend which is ex-x pected to continue next year.

Indeed, it has been an exceptionally strong year for sporting literature. According to online giant Amazon, titles such as Born To Run by Christopher McDougall, Beware of the Dog by lawyer and ex-rugby international Brian Moore and We Were Young and Carefree by former Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon have flown off the virtual shelves.

Interestingly, however, only two books in the internet giants' annual UK top ten are football-related.

This is good news for UK publishers as book sales have suffered in recent years. The most recently published figures for 2009 from the Publishers Association showed we bought a total of pounds 3,404 million worth of books last year, a fall of almost 5per cent.

In volume terms, however, sales of books were much more encouraging: children's book sales rose by 13.9per cent last year, while adult sales fell by 4.3per cent.

According to thebookseller.com, we spent pounds 31.5 million on books last week, a rise of 4.8per cent on 2009.

To date, sales of Born To Run have exceeded 100,000 in hardback alone, a significant milestone for publisher and author.

Fewer than 500 of the 180,000-odd titles published every year sell this well; only ten will ever reach the one million mark.

The overwhelming majority (79 per cent) of titles achieve fewer than 100 successful sales, a startling statistical truth which makes traditional publishing such a risk.

Yet such is sport's wall-to-wall, 24/7 profile that sport books are actually less of a gamble for publishers, as the list of current crop of best sellers proves.

Aside from McDougall, Fignon and Moore, Lance Armstrong's It's Not About The Bike, Kenny Dalglish's My Liverpool Home and Andre Agassi's Open are ex-x pected to be amongst this weekend's best-sellers.

The success of sporting biographies and autobiographies provides further evidence that playing success continues to equate with lucrative off-field opportunities for sportsmen.

"Christopher McDougall's compelling tale has been the sports book surprise of 2010," says Stephen Broadhurst, operations manager of online sports booksellers and reviewers, Sports Book of the Month.com.

"He was relatively unknown in the UK, yet has produced one of the year's most engrossing and widely-read tomes.

Fair play to his publishers (Profile Books) for taking a chance on him; their gamble has definitely paid off."

In a World Cup year, book sellers may have expected to see more tournamentbased titles occupying shelf space on the run-up to Christmas. …